The advantages of going somewhere during the off-season are simple—better deals, smaller crowds —and they derive from the premise that off-peak travel must involve lowered expectations and certain compromises. A few rare places, however, hold hidden allure in the quiet months: castles on a rainy day, fishing-boat fairy lights, the braying of amorous penguins. As local experts make clear in the following year-round selection, you don't need to go peak to hit the heights.
Located 150 miles north of Hamburg, this tiny island is often called the “German Hamptons,” thanks to the number of Porsche Cayennes that roll in every summer. But for author and guide Silke von Bremen, it’s in winter that Sylt really shines.
“Half the island is made up of dunes. When you’re walking these with stormy winds blowing, the air is white. There is a huge red cliff, and great mudflats where you hear nothing, see only horizon. And there are pastures, where the cows stand. If you like to be alone with nature and you’re not afraid of fog, come in February.
“There’s also the Biikebrennen this month, a festival going back many centuries. People make big fires to say goodbye to winter. You walk through the foggy darkness, and far away you see them shining. Then you go for a drink, something hot with lots of alcohol, and eat a dish with kale. About 80 percent of the people don’t actually like it, but you have to eat it. It’s a ritual.”